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Rap Biographies: KRS-one

KRS-One (born Lawrence Krisna Parker on August 20, 1965 in Brooklyn, New York.) is an American MC. Over his career he has been known by several pseudonyms, including Kris Parker, KRS One, KRS-ONE (as given at his site), The Blastmaster and The Teacha. KRS One is a significant figure in the hip hop community and is often referenced in works by other hip hop artists. KRS-ONE, originally a member of the hip hop crew Boogie Down Productions, is known for setting the path for both hardcore gangsta rap and socially conscious political rap.

KRS-One (born Kris Parker) was the leader of Boogie Down Productions, one of the most influential hardcore hip-hop outfits of the '80s. At the height of his career - roughly 1987-1990 - KRS-One was known for his furiously political and socially conscious raps, which is the source of his nickname, "The Teacher." Around the time of 1990's Edutainment, BDP's audience began to slip as many fans thought his raps were becoming preachy. As a reaction, KRS-One began to re-establish his street credibility with harder, sparer beats and raps. BDP's 1992's Sex and Violence was the first sign that he was taking a harder approach, one that wasn't nearly as concerned with teaching.

KRS-One's first solo album, 1993's Return of the Boom Bap, was an extension of the more direct approach of Sex and Violence, yet it didn't halt his commercial decline. Still, he forged on with a high-quality self-titled 1995 effort and 1996's Battle for Rap Supremacy, a joint effort with his old rival MC Shan. After 1997's I Got Next, he put his solo career on hiatus for several years, finally returning in early 2001 with The Sneak Attack. The following year brought two full releases: the gospel effort Spiritually Minded and The Mix Tape, the latter including a single ("Ova Here") that stood as a response to Nellie, only the latest hip-hop figure to feud with the Blastmaster.

Born Lawrence Parker in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1965, the future KRS-One grew up with his brother Kenny and their single mother in assorted inner city neighborhoods of Brooklyn and the Bronx. According to interviews with The Source Magazine, one fateful day when he was 12 years old, he and his brother Kenny prepared a pan of flavored rice, which was to be the family's dinner for the evening. The hungry pair ate the whole thing, and when their mother came home from work, she kicked them out of the apartment in a fit of anger. They stayed away for two days before younger Kenny decided to go back home, while Lawrence opted not to return. He spent the better part of the next seven years homeless, much of it at local libraries.

In his late teen years, Lawrence Parker fell in with some illegal drug dealers and became a courier. Using a bread delivery truck as a cover, Parker and his partner drove around town to make drops. During one of their trips, a police car pulled up behind them with flashing lights. Parker's partner panicked, and led the cops on a chase for several miles which ended with the truck crashing and the two being apprehended. At the trial, the judge made the commentary that the only reason the police had initially tried to pull them over was because they had private plates on a commercial vehicle, there was no original intent to search for drugs.

Parker, still a minor, claimed he was a ward of the state, and got sent to a juvenile home for his sentencing, after which he was moved to a Covenant House youth homeless shelter. It was there that he met Scott Sterling, a recent college graduate who just started working at the shelter as a social worker. Parker discovered that Sterling moonlighted as a hip hop DJ under the name Scott La Rock. By this time, Parker had earned the nickname "Kris" from the relationship he had developed with local Hare Krishnas that evangelized near the shelter. Heavily influenced by Eastern philosophies, he was also an aspiring rapper, and practiced routines in verbal spars with the other shelter residents.

Parker and Sterling, along with two other fellows, decided to form a rap group together, initially calling themselves "Scott La Rock and the Celebrity Three". That was short-lived, however, as the two peripheral members quit, leaving Parker (now calling himself KRS-One) and Sterling. They then decided to call themselves "Boogie Down Productions". Success is the Word, a 12-inch single release on indie Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records (under the group name "12:41") did not enjoy commercial success. Soon after, the pair approached another NY indie, Rock Candy Productions, for a deal. As it turns out, the entertainment company was allegedly a front for a pornography operation, but Parker and Sterling convinced the boss to front them the money to record an album, under the newly created subsidiary label, B-Boy Records. After a few 12-inch single releases, the Criminal Minded album finally surfaced in 1987.

Criminal Minded featured many dis tracks that attacked other hip hop emcees and tracks about street crime ("wa da da deng wa da da da deng, listen to my nine millimeter go bang"). KRS One and La Rock appeared on the cover of the album holding firearms, a controversial precedent that would be followed by many rap artists in the years to follow. Musically, the album was based around James Brown samples and reggae influences. They also sampled hard-rock band AC/DC on "Dope Beat". During these years, KRS-One was also famously involved in a hip hop battle with MC Shan, of Queensbridge. KRS objected to MC Shan calling Queensbridge the home of hip hop, and attacked him viciously on a seminal battle rap, The Bridge Is Over.

Following the fatal shooting of Scott La Rock in 1987, Boogie Down Productions (BDP) became increasingly political. KRS One was the primary motivation behind the HEAL compilation and the Stop the Violence Movement. KRS One attracted many prominent emcees to appear on the 12-inch single "Self Destruction." As Parker adopted this more conscientious, less violent approach, he stopped calling himself "The Blastmaster" (his battle rap nickname), and instead began calling himself "The Teacha", turning the nickname KRS-ONE into the backronym "Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone".

On his first solo album, 1993's Return of the Boombap, KRS worked together with producers DJ Premier (Gang Starr), Showbiz and Kid Capri. The catchy yet very hardcore track "Sound of da Police" is featured on this album. His second album, KRS One featured Channel Live on the track "Free Mumia", a political protest song about Mumia Abu-Jamal, an imprisoned African-American and Black Panther member who a vocal group of activists on the political Left claim is innocent of the crime of which he was convicted. Other prominent guest artists on KRS One included Mad Lion, Busta Rhymes, Das EFX and Fat Joe.

KRS One's 2004 album, Keep RightIn 1997, Parker surprised many with his release of the album "I Got Next". The record included a remix of the single "Step into a World" which featured a sample from the 1970s rock group Blondie by commercial rap icon Puff Daddy. "Heartbeat", featuring Angie Martinez and Redman, was based on the old school classic "Feel the Heartbeat" by the Treacherous Three. These collaborations with notably mainstream artists took many fans and observers of the vehemently anti-mainstream KRS One by surprise. However, in August 1997 KRS One appeared on Tim Westwood's BBC Radio 1 show and vociferously denounced the DJ and the radio station more generally, accusing them of ignoring his style of hip-hop in favour of commercial artists such as Puff Daddy.

In 1999, there were tentative plans to release an album called "Maximum Strength"; a lead single, "5 Boroughs", was released on The Corruptor movie soundtrack. However, KRS apparently decided to abort the album's planned release, just as he had secured a position as a Vice-President of A&R at Reprise Records. KRS moved to southern California, and stayed there for two years, finally ending his relationship with Jive Records with A Retrospective in 2000. The next year, he resigned his position at Reprise and in 2001 The Sneak Attack was released on Koch Records. In 2002, he released a gospel-rap album, Spiritual Minded, surprising many longtime fans. Parker had once denounced Christianity as a "slavemaster religion" which African-Americans should not follow. He founded the Temple of Hiphop, and released a new album, Kristyles, in mid- 2003, which was preceded by KRS-One: The Mixtape. He has most recently released Keep Right in the summer of 2004.

Apparently, KRS-One will be putting out two albums in 2006. The first, titled "My Life", will be out on Antagonist Records, while the second "Adventures in Emceein" will be out on Koch Records. KRS has also confirmed for his next album of new material, expected to be out in 2007, he will be working with Marley Marl.

In 2004, KRS engendered a controversy when he was quoted in a panel discussion hosted by New Yorker Magazine as saying that Blacks "cheered when 911 happened". The comment drew criticism from many sources, including a pointed barb by the New York Daily News that called Parker an "anarchist" and said that "If Osama bin Laden ever buys a rap album, he'll probably start with a CD by KRS-One."
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